OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma’s governor wants the state’s school superintendent to be appointed rather than elected, which would give the governor more power over public education.
Gov. Kevin Stitt did not specify if he wanted to appoint the position, or if he wanted the state Board of Education to make the decision. Stitt already appoints six of the seven board members, The Oklahoman reported.
Stitt told the newspaper that he’s frustrated by his limited ability to affect education policy.
“When the governor’s elected by all four million Oklahomans, the people think that he or she’s supposed to be able to go in and make some different moves on education to get outcomes,” Stitt said. “That’s just common sense. That’s what I thought when I was sitting in Tulsa in the business world. That’s what people in Oklahoma think.” Of nearly 4 million Oklahomans, 644,579 voted for Stitt to become governor.
Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, said allowing the governor to appoint the state superintendent could drastically shift the balance of power.
“I think as we continue to make improvements and get ourselves back on the right footing with the budget as well as with (education) policy, this would remove the voice of the people from that process,” Provenzano said.
In 2013, Republican Sen. Greg Treat introduced legislation to consolidate appointment power under the governor. But it didn’t make it to a statewide vote.
Treat still favors this idea, said spokesman Aaron Cooper.
“The current office holders are doing a fine job, but Senator Treat believes this model works well at the federal level and in other states and would work well in Oklahoma, too,” Cooper said.
The state’s top public education official leads the state Department of Education and serves on the state board.
Stitt does not want any changes to affect Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, whose office declined to comment. She was elected to her final term in 2018.
In order to make the change, legislators would have to refer a constitutional amendment on a state ballot for voters to decide whether Oklahoma’s state superintendent should be appointed instead of elected.
If residents are unhappy with the state of education in Oklahoma, they should consider giving the governor the power to reform the state’s education system, Stitt said.
“I’m just trying to point out the hindrances, the reason that I believe that we’re not performing up to where other states are,” Stitt added.